The Power of Non-Violent Communication: Needs

My Non-Violent Communication Discovery weekend begin with me feeling upbeat and, frankly, jazzed to be there. Over the past year, I had such valuable experiences with NVC just by reading the book.

Non-Violent Communication or Compassionaite Communication is a set of ideas and practices to support authentic and vulnerable connections with one and other. Through NVC we are able to support ourselves and others in tapping into their life energy

What are needs?
Everything you have done or will ever do is to fulfill your needs. This includes thoughts (subconscious and conscious), words and actions.

If I feel enlivened, after taking a swim in the morning; if I feel frustrated for not being acknowledged for my work; or, if negative self-talk (e.g., “Why were you so lazy today?) arises – it is all to meet my needs.

Upon first hearing this, I felt quite surprised to hear that even my perceived negative-self-talk is for the purpose of fulling my needs.

Thoughts > Feelings > Needs:
NVC Circle

The purpose of this diagram is to show us how recognizing judgements and how pervasive and invisible they are. If think someone is right or wrong; if I think something should or should not happen, if label someone, etc.

Everything in the outer layer of the circle – Every judgement word – has a feeling and need behind it. For example, if I call someone “stupid,” I may be feeling frustrated and have a need for understanding and connection.

Our judgements/labels are indicators of our feelings, and our feelings give us an understanding of our needs. In this way, everything we think and experience supports us in understanding our svadharma (personal calling).

Internal Dialogue: Examples Showing How Judgements Lead to Our Needs

Thoughts/Judgements Feeling Needs (or Values)
I am “lazy” I am feeling frustrated I am needing (or value) effectiveness
I am a “slob” I am feeling repulsion, self-conscious I am needing ease, health/well-being
You are “needy” I am feeling mistrustrful I am needing (or value) mutality

In any situation, whether you are judging our perceiving judgement, do you want to focus on the pain or on transformation? In doing so, we are acknolwedging the choice of which need we fulfill.

`For example, if I call myself “lazy” it may be an attempt to motivate myself. Perhaps, it is my attempt to express frustration because my need for effectiveness is not being met.

Perhaps, the reality is I value “effectiveness” (a personal need), and I am mourning the lack of it. Instead of using judgements to “motivate” yourself, you can use positive statements — e.g., “I love effectiveness.”

If you imagine the brain as a programable robot, and that you are a programmer — it shifts the paradigm. Feelings and needs come from the mind, but they are not the mind. Thoughts program our mind — our memory. We have thought habits.

If we are able to keep our needs in our awareness, you can meet your needs in many different ways (strategies), and, most importantly, I am given choice on who and what meets my needs.

The Yogic Perspective of NVC:

Throughout the first day, I was having a lot of trouble reconciling this with ideas and belief systems around detachment and desire. Kumari, one of the individuals helping out during the weekend, suggested there is no difference between need and desire: Discovery and Joy are equally important to Food and Water.

Desire is a strategy; desirelessness is being detached from the strategy. For example, people in higher-states of consciousness (e.g., nirvana or enlightenment) are open to whatever the universe gives them.

*I am still trying to understand whether this holds true for equanimity and awareness on bodily sensations?

Our Life Training to Not Feel and to Not Have Needs:
We are trained that feelings and needs are bad. During school if we were hungry, we are told to wait. During school if we were tired, we are told to pay attention. As a man, I have been countless times to “man up” and not cry.

We are preprogrammed to value certain needs over others. For example, if a young boy or girl cries, he or she is told to be a “big boy” or “big girl” and to stop crying.

Any time a society starts to preordain what needs are more important than others, it creates a control on people and society.


The Power of Non-Violent Communication: Feelings

On day two of the Non-Violent Communication Discovery Weekend, we focused on feelings (for the overview of needs). Here are my notes:

Feelings as Guide Posts:
The human body needs a lot of things — feelings are a gift with the human experience. For example, if you put your hand on a hot stove, you will automatically seek to remove it from the stove.

This feeling of pain is meant to tell you “remove your hand from this stove, or you will lose your hand.” How do I use these indicators – energy – to guide me? When I feel something, and I am able to use this to understand my needs – what I am valuing? I can use these as guideposts for my feelings and needs:
1. We observe something happening.
2. We understand there are unfulfilled needs
3. We have feelings that create the connection

There is No Good or Bad: There is no such thing as a positive or negative feeling: only fulfilled and unfilled needs.

There is conscious heartbreak: I am needing appreciation vs. I want my father to appreciate me. In the later, there is a recognition of ones needs without defining the strategy to fulfill that need. In the former, there is a strategy that may or may not meet ones need.

The journey into understanding our needs opens possibilities. When we tap into our needs and understand what we value – we can choose. We can choose to fulfill one need or another.

When we think we should or should not do something, there is an underlying need.

For example, how do you say no with a sense of care. Often times we may think, “I don’t want someone to feel upset.” Worrying about someones emotions is the ultimate ball and chain. You can’t anyone feel anything; their own needs do that.

When we feel an obligation it is coming from our brains; real care comes from within. For example, helping because you care (e.g., Something you value or a need you need to meet) versus because you feel obligated (e.g., Something you think you should do).

I do what I do because I should vs. I do what I do because it serves me. There is a huge difference between these two statements. The first is based on the constructs of “good” and “bad” and the second is based on conscious choice of meetings ones needs through an action.

+ Do the needs assessment
+ Create a catalog of the things you think you shoul do, and replace with awareness based on needs

One gentleman brought up the issue of how to move to NVC Consciousness. There are these boats known has punts, and moving from one to another is very challenging. To move from normal conversation to conversation with NVC Consciousness, we need self-empathy to be our bridge. We must make a leap via self-empathy.

The best way to understand this is to consider: Thoughts of a Situation versus Experience of a Situation. How do we experience something? Intelletually, we may say that ice cream tastes sweet, and creates a cold sensation on my tongue, but the more relevant thing is the underlying need it is fulfilling.

Are there evil people in the world? If I want evil people, then there are evil people in the world. If I don’t want evil people, there are alternatives (i.e. NVC Consciousness).

Cheated or Abondoned are judgements.
Questions: Create space
Answers: Fill space

  • If I say, “ I need you to…”, then I am demanding a specific strategy to meet a need.
  • If I say, “I need care…”, then I am sharing my need that is not being fulfilled.

When we understand our feelings and needs, we are moving with lifes energy.

Power Over versus Power With
+ Power with: Understanding of everyones needs
+ Power over: Consciousness of getting what you want

Static Descriptions
We can describe ourselves in static statements during interviews. Can you handle criticism. The question is when can you handle criticism, not whether you can.

How am I? versus. Who am I? The idea of asking someone “How am I? seems to be focused on the ideas of labels and judgements. ”Who am I?” seems to be focused on the ideas of being (i.e. who am I being?)


We have an opportunity to share experiences or share judgements. When we share observations, we lubricate the conversation.

For example: I think your hair is beautiful vs. Your hair is beautiful.  Or, if I ask a group of people, “How big is this room?” Then I will receive 20 different responses…it depends on perspective.

“You are speaking in a tone of voice that I am having a hard time hearing.” This statement is an observation, not a judgement

Moralistic judgement: The wine is bad. versus. Value judgment: I don’t like the wine. Judgements are useful as they are information that lead to feelings and needs.

Remember: Life energy comes from feelings and needs, not thoughts.

Need for Being Right: If we focus on being right, we can miss seeing the person in front of us.

What is the difference between needs and values? Value is something that I love to see in the world.

Praise versus Appreciation: Praise is to get me to do something, and comes from “above”  (i.e. a means of behavior modification), while appreciation is a form of sharing an experience.

NVC Appreciation: (1) State what you observe (specifics); (2) State what you felt, and (3) State what needs were being met